Uncharted 4 Director Responds to Character Racial Swap

"What's so awesome about our medium is your outward appearance doesn't matter at all."

320 Comments

Speaking at a panel today at PlayStation Experience, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End director Neil Druckmann provided some background on the new character Nadine Ross. The character is black, but is performed by a white actress, Laura Bailey. Druckmann said when Naughty Dog created the character, they had no final look in place for her. They only determined her character details, including her role in a mercenary military organization and that she was from South Africa.

No Caption Provided

With that information, Naughty Dog sent out a casting call to determine who would play Ross. Many people auditioned, including white actors, black actors, American actors, and actors from South Africa, Druckmann said. But Bailey blew them away.

"There was no question in our mind: that's Nadine," he said about Bailey's audition.

With the role cast, Druckmann returned to the studio to go over concept designs for the character. A Naughty Dog concept artist presented a design of a black character, and Druckmann thought it was too good to pass over.

"This is awesome," he said of the design. "How often do you see a character of color that's ripped..and I was like, 'This also is Nadine.'"

Some inside the studio had concerns, however. "Someone on the team said, 'You know, you have a white actor [playing] a black character, are you sure you want to do that? You're inviting controversy,'" he recalled.

"If we were to change these characters, we would be operating out of fear of something that's outside the game" -- Druckmann

Some people suggested "changing the character," but Druckmann wanted to finish the character and see her in-game before making a decision. Months later, Ross was finally ready in the game. Druckmann and the team were so impressed by the final result that there was no way they were going to change her.

"What's so awesome about our medium is your outward appearance doesn't matter at all. If it did, Troy couldn't play Joel in The Last of Us. Ashley Johnson couldn't play Ellie. In the movie version, they can't play those roles and they played them to perfection [in the game]."

Druckmann went on to reveal that Uncharted 4 also features a white character played by a black actor. In the case of this character (who will be revealed later) and Ross, Naughty Dog went with the actors who performed the role best, regardless of their skin color.

"If we were to change these characters, we would be operating out of fear of something that's outside the game and these were the best calls for Uncharted 4," he said. "I stand by that 110 percent and I wouldn't change anything. I'm so proud of Laura's performance and I hope none of this takes away from what she was able to accomplish."

Uncharted 4 launches in March 2016 exclusively for PS4.

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Avatar image for justerthought
justerthought

Well having watched the trailer I'm not convinced. The voice does not match because the woman sounds white UK woith zero black culture in the voice. It looks weird. I would argue the best person for the job was not used. It looks like the character was originally cast as white and they switched the model skin to black at the last minute just to spice things up.

The whole scene looks weird actually. Maybe it's the uncanny valley creeping in but even Nate's voice did not suit the face. Nate's face seems to have morphed into a mini Nolan North and Nolan North's real voice seems to conflict the detailed artificial face.

Considering the high quality cut scenes in Uncharted and The Last Of Us were industry standards, I'm a little concerned.

Avatar image for JustPlainLucas
JustPlainLucas

Oh, and someone brought this point up in one of the comments. James Earl Jones voiced Darth Vader, and no one had an issue with that.... so.... stop making it an issue here.

Avatar image for ChazPrime
ChazPrime

1). It's their game

2). Naughty Dog have proven they know how to make great games and characters

Perhaps everyone should drop this social justice bullsh!t and let them get on with it? It's getting really old.

Avatar image for Scarf0
Scarf0

There are so few opportunities for black voice actresses in AAA video games. Very, very few. Laura Bailey already starred in literally hundreds of games already. Is it really so bad for folks to voice they should had given an black actress an chance to voice their talents in this game? I mean they couldn't find one black female voice actress to have the right voice for this role? I find that hard to believe. Once again Naughty Dog dropped the ball when handling black characters for their games. The Last of Us killed of every black character they introduced in that game while many of the white characters survived. A sad trope that continues in American story telling to this day.

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JustPlainLucas

@Scarf0: "Druckmann went on to reveal that Uncharted 4 also features a white character played by a black actor. In the case of this character (who will be revealed later) and Ross, Naughty Dog went with the actors who performed the role best, regardless of their skin color."

Focus on that please. Naughty Dog went with a black voice actor over a white voice actor for a white character. Why? Because the actor they chose fit the character best. There may have been several talented black voice actresses for Nadine, but Naught Dog chose Laura Bailey because, like with the male voice actor, her performance was liked the best.

Avatar image for Scarf0
Scarf0

@JustPlainLucas: just because he got "an black actor voicing an white character" still misses the very valid point about the very noticeable lack of opportunity for black female voice actresses to get roles in AAA games. You have to notice an alarming few are given roles. THAT'S the whole point. There are plenty of black voice actresses out there that would love to get picked for an role in an AAA video game. Let's be honest, there are so very few opportunities out there. When one arises, it's disappointing to see the part given to an non black actress that has already hundreds of voice acting opportunities under her belt. The part of Nadine was (and still is) an missed opportunity, for an industry that offers so very few for black female voice actresses. That's the point you and Druckman seems to continue to miss. You either get it, or you don't. The facts are still out there, all the same.

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JustPlainLucas

@Scarf0: You missed my point again. The reason why I brought up the fact that a black male voice actor was chosen over a white was because he fit the role better than the white actors who auditioned. This is EXACTLY how it worked in reverse for Nadine. So what, you want affirmative action here? That's not how it works! The job goes to the best performer, which means if you're disappointed in anything, you should be disappointed in the black voice actresses who didn't do a better job auditioning!It may suck to you to see a well-established veteran voice actor take a part from a black voice actress, but well, that's experience for you. That's why many voice actors in general - white or black - don't get a chance to voice a AAA character because Nolan North or Troy Baker gets it yet again.

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ps3gamer1234

Blue Bloods- Rush to Judgment Season 6, Episode 6 has a guy that is white and that sounds black and act black.

Avatar image for transk53
Transk53

Absolutely outrageous. How can a white person voice a black character? The same way an orange person can voice a blue person. Oh I am being silly aren’t I? If there is controversy, it will not be about dialect. I can understand that a black South African with a thick regional accent could not really voice a white character. But it won’t be about technical issues like that, it will be the usual boring colour of the skin crap.

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luciferous

@transk53: Why couldn't a black south African with a thick regional accent play a white guy from the same region, or any region if they are talented enough to modify their accent? (disclaimer, I've worked with a bunch of South Africans, their skin colour makes little difference to how they sound.)

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Transk53

@luciferous:

Not what I was meaning. I used as an example. I was being sarcastic to a degree, but reading what the article said is just a bugbear of mine.

Avatar image for luciferous
luciferous

@transk53: I probably should have added that I got the sarcasm.

I've been getting increasingly annoyed by the various articles making a big deal of something that shouldn't be a deal, so i think we're both in the same boat.

Avatar image for transk53
Transk53

@luciferous:

Yeah. Agree with you.

Avatar image for gambitslegion
GambitsLegion

A black actress voices Ashley Williams. What is the big deal?

Avatar image for lightning_kf
lightning_kf

Hey look, a random article about how a white woman is voicing a black woman in Uncharted 4. Okay?

So what? And here I thought the controversy behind Resident Evil 5's original concept was stupid. So what?

Avatar image for luvley41
Luvley41

The system is not letting me reply to you but I want to answer.

Am_Shaegar: No, she should have a background of whatever makes her important in the story. That doesn't make her Black but makes her important to the story that any character of any race could play, Just as the actress that voices her can be anyone that has the skill and ability as long as her voice doesn't distract from the character.

Now for the spelling lesson. Per dummies.com "White and Black" or white and black is acceptable just be consistent.

I do it because I have yet to see a person painted white, red, yellow or black. I see white and black cars all the time. Even if someone is as pale as snow or black as rubber tires I'm still not looking at color I'm looking at skin, human skin. Thus I do it out of respect as I would typing European or Asian or African. I am referring to their race not a color in a Crayola box.

Avatar image for Am_Shaegar
Am_Shaegar

@luvley41: I've sat here for about 5 minutes trying to think of a good reply to this and I don't really have one... because your response about the race thing is silly to me. Why not just call her an African female? Black isn't a race, its a color. Even if its a skin color. Just like white is a color. If I went and talked about the White Male and capitalized it like that there would be some SJW who would say yell oppression or some stupid s**t about me being a racist when it couldn't be further from the truth. People need to chill out and just enjoy games. But companies or news organizations love to make controversy and run PR stunts. That's what this is, a way to reach out to a certain group of people who may not come to this site but now because race is involved this could interest them... thus creating more clicks and more money.

Better question: why are we even having this discussion on Gamespot? Again, why is this EVEN a news article on here? Shenanigans, that's why.

Avatar image for luvley41
Luvley41

@Am_Shaegar: Well, here's something you could do. Not answer at all. Let those that have a "good" answer, reply. Just a suggestion.

Avatar image for Am_Shaegar
Am_Shaegar

@luvley41: My answer was fantastic. So good and moving that it moved many users on here to tears.

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Beagle050

Oh look, another thing nobody should actually care about.

Avatar image for thack57
thack57

As a white male, in his fifties who has been playing video games, watching movies, and have enjoyed all forms of entertainment over the years and almost every time an incident like this arises it usually some white guy who comes out and says that black men or women should be offended. I'm not saying that any of the players in this have done that but the fears that folks at Naughty Dog are expressing are a direct effect of these past incidents. Back in early 1988 CBS's NFL pre-game had a gent named Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder who was an expert at odds making in Las Vegas (to this day I've never understood the logic in hiring a gambling expert to analyze a sport that worries about integrity but that's a discussion for another day). Then one night he's eating dinner at a restaurant when some local reporter thinks a smart idea would be to go up to a "white", Las Vegas odds maker and ask him about the state of black athletes in today's society because it was Dr. King's birthday. Well Jimmy who was a keen observer who, and known to break things down to their core elements somehow got around to explaining that back in the days of slavery, slave owners (which still seems like something that was made up and couldn't have been really real) use to breed their strongest males w/like females. Well poor Jimmy who had been asked a question gave a historically accurate account of what had actually transpired 100 years prior woke up the next morning to a firestorm. A firestorm that was created by a bunch of old white guys in suits who feigned outrage at the comments thought it best to just flat out fire Jimmy, even though many black leaders, including Rev. Jesse Jackson who was a close friend of Dr. King's supported Jimmy and knew that no malice was intended the white guys knew better as to what should or shouldn't offend black Americans. I'm sorry but I'm glad that Naughty Dog stuck to their guns. The P.C. Fuzz are killing more + more of our Constitutional rights every, single day

Avatar image for Am_Shaegar
Am_Shaegar

Let's be real here. Who the hell cares? James Earl Jones voiced Darth Vader who was played by a white dude in Star Wars (who's name I don't even know!) and then he went on to voice Mufasa in Lion King. Guess what? He was AWESOME because his voice was awesome. SJW's, go away. Political correctness is nothing but shenanigans. And truth be told if it was a black lady voicing a white character this wouldn't even be an article. Go home, Gamespot, you're drunk.

Avatar image for lateralus1
lateralus1

@Am_Shaegar: You get it. So true. The article actually states that there is a white character in the game that is played by a black actor. These are voice actors. They picked what they thought was right for the character and just really good voice actors. Naughty Dog has quite an awesome track record in this regard also. GameSpot has no shame at all in attempts at click-bait. "Controversy" Give me a friggin break. What a joke.

Avatar image for luvley41
Luvley41

I am a Black female that loves video games. I've played all the Uncharted games. Personally I don't have a problem with who voices Nadine as long their voice doesn't sound so off from the character's features that it is distracting. I'm not all that concerned about what she looks like. Nadine looks like she was created by the same people that created all the other characters. To me they all are not attractive. But there is one thing I am concerned about as I am with all Black characters in any fictional media, how they write her story. I would rather there are no Black characters in anything than their story being writing with disrespect for how they are treated in the story. Because she will be one of very few ethnic characters or possibly the only and she's a female her story needs special care and consideration. I am hoping that because she wasn't originally written as Black her story was written without Black or female stereotypes and I can feel good about seeing her in the next Uncharted game I buy. If not, I doubt I will ever purchase another one again.

Avatar image for Am_Shaegar
Am_Shaegar

@luvley41: So... clarify. Should she have a background of she was born and raised in Baltimore where she doesn't know her dad and don't need no man, only to watch her brother get shot by the cops while he was committing a crime which motivated her to go to Africa and join a merc group? Or no...? Because if that was her background, shoot she straight hood! And I'd believe that she was in fact black.

On a more serious note, why are you capitalizing the word black? lol its not a noun, its an adjective.

Adjective: A word or phrase naming an attribute, added to or grammatically related to a noun to modify or describe it. Female is the common noun, black is the adjective. Unless my 4th grade English class has failed me, I believe I am correct here. Shoot! Now I can't remember the name of the animated grammar lessons... one of them had like the bill... sittin' on capital hill... and another was a song that went Conjunction Junction, what's your fuuuuunction? and it was about, you guessed it, conjunctions represented by linking up trains in a train yard. Someone help me out, what's the name of those videos? This is serious business!

Avatar image for pedal2metal214
pedal2metal214

"What's so awesome about our medium is your outward appearance doesn't matter at all." Exactly, a pure merit-based system. This is the true ideal & as it should be. No catering to agendas on any side, just simple job performance independent of race, etc.... This is how gaming can positively impact the culture at-large. Nice response Neil, well-said.

Avatar image for hansbeej
hansbeej

I can't wait until the SJ-warrioring fad dies already. These people are an impediment to creativity and creation and a drain on discourse at this point.

Avatar image for Furwings
Furwings

Last time I checked a yellow-skinned boy doesn't voice Bart Simpson - a Caucasian woman does. I've never given a rat's ass. Same applies with this overblown non-situation with Uncharted 4.

Avatar image for incredibilistic
incredibilistic

Considering both White and Black actors play penguins, dogs and even cars this is a non-issue.

Besides, if we're gonna start matching White voices with fictional Black characters then we should start with Kratos.

If any medium deserves shade for race swapping it's Hollywood who loves to cast White actors whenever making a centuries old movie set in Africa. Yet when they need slaves you won't find a single White actor in the mix.

Avatar image for dangerpaper88
dangerpaper88

Biggest non-issue of the year award goes to this and crying SJW racists everywhere.

Avatar image for alpha-blade
alpha-blade

Yeah, so where's the dang problem? cause the voice actress is white! seriously?

Avatar image for justbefahad
JustBeFahad

Good response by Druckmann.

Avatar image for Beasthunt
Beasthunt

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Waaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh.

That's what I would have responded with.

Avatar image for maitkarro
maitkarro

Who cares, just let them do their game, actors are doing their job acting as somebody who they aren't, that's the whole point of their career.

Avatar image for bicepsul
bicepsul

like it matters. this politcally correct bullshit is ruining society. It's fucking people and that's it. Racist this racist that, to hell with this shitty mentality.

Avatar image for Attitude2000
Attitude2000

Reminds me of two of my favorite films, Soldiers girl and different for girls. Couldn't help wondering who should be in those roles.

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unDeny

2015... Its.. 2015....

Avatar image for Stevo_the_gamer
Stevo_the_gamer

SJWs are adept at making mountains out of mole hills.

Moderator
Avatar image for rydilianzero
rydilianzero

Ok they got this chick we got Darth Vader who cares. I read this grabbed my son and wept we won we finally won. I clicked on this I thought you was going to tell me it was a man now that's a story worth clicking...and Nathan didn't even know ass he kissed her...uncharted 5 Boom

Avatar image for xwinson
xWinson

Paraphrasing Morgan Freeman, to stop racism we just need to stop talking about it and stop making a fuss every time an opportunity arises.

Avatar image for toddx77
toddx77

@xwinson: A lot of people would be out of a job if we did that lol.

Avatar image for Jam133
Jam133

Right, so the guy who is the narrator in Bastion and the sword in Transistor (Logan Cunningham, brilliant btw) is black but the characters he plays are white (okay, one's a sword but before he was a sword it looks like he was a white guy) but that never sparked any controversy. So my question is - when does this become offensive? Is it okay for black actors to voice white characters but not the other way round? Is it only okay if the game is stylised or cartoonish and not realistic? I'm so confused as to when i'm supposed to be outraged.

Avatar image for Beasthunt
Beasthunt

@Jam133: because the age of everything black is offended about everything.

Avatar image for livedreamplay
LiveDreamPlay

The fact that they have to think twice about casting an *insert skin color here* person in an *insert skin color here* person's part shows us that racism is far from being over, and that it's being kept here mostly by the people offended by such things.

Avatar image for DarthLod
DarthLod

The media is OBSESSED with skin color. WHO FRAKIN' CARES!!!! Stop drilling skin color into the masses in every single thing. Stop trying to separate us even further by politically correct agendas. Skin color DOESN'T MATTER!!!

Avatar image for Gagomkd
Gagomkd

I fail to see the "problem".

Avatar image for 001011000101101
001011000101101

Game character is white: "Ohmagerd, why do characters always have to be white?"

Game character is black, with a white voice actor: "Ohmagerd, why do voice actorts always have to be white?"

It must nice to have worries like these be the ones taking up most of your time. First world problems indeed.

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advocacy

Why is this even an issue?

Avatar image for SingletreeAve
SingletreeAve

Anyone who has a problem with this is a racist. With that said, as a white boy, I am perfectly fine with a white actress voicing a black character. Just don't let the white chick dance.